Big Ideas and Big Egos

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As of late, my friend Serdar has been on a tear, speculating on constructive loafing to quality and “difficult” work. I’ve come to realize a lot of creative speculation is self-justification and self-aggrandizement. That is hardly creative.

For instance, consider the idea of the “auteur” creator, the wild madman (always a man, isn’t it?) who doesn’t play by the rules. Supposedly their greatness is in their disdain for rules of all kinds.

 . . . but isn’t a great part of this a desire to just not have to play by rules? Many a wild auteur, deconstructed, is a gloss of transgressiveness over unoriginality. But if you can say you’re a troubled genius, you can get away with a lot.

Or consider how we treat creativity as some magical happenstance from outside. That there’s this bolt of lighting or genetic lottery that decides creative power.

. . . but isn’t this part of the desire to feel special? We want to feel chosen. Of course, if you pretend to be special, some people may see you clothed in the wardrobe of an artist, despite your naked lack of talent.

Creativity is a messy way of bringing about order – or an orderly way to make a glorious mess. It’s hard work because no matter what magical spark you have, it takes work to make it real. The reception of creativity is unpredictable, as many a talented person can tell you by pointing to their bank account.

It may soothe egos to believe one is a great auteur or give one license to take the frustration out on others. It may boost one to think they have some unique divine creative spark burning within them. But we only delude ourselves with such thoughts, and delusion rarely leads to creativity.

Worse, if we encourage these fantasies for ourselves, we allow them in others. I think we’ve learned again and again we need less egomaniacal auteurs and artists with delusions of eugenics or godhood. No matter how gifted, such people will eventually have their art be all about themselves, and then it ceases to be art.

I’d rather deal with creativity face to face, like a person, with the humility and unsurety that involves.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Book Roundup 10/5/2021

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I post a roundup of them for interested parties!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Fiction

Take a typical fantasy world – and then let it evolve into the information age.  Welcome to the solar system of Avenoth, where gods use email, demons were banished to a distant planet, and science and sorcery fling people across worlds . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when they’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!
  • A School of Many Futures – The crew is back, and finding having secrets and keeping them isn’t the same thing! Unfortunately they also find “very normal” is a cover for “anything but” . . .

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

My Sites

The Difficulty of Difficult Media

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

(Thanks to Serdar, who inspired me with this column.)

I often hear the word “Difficult” used to describe media with praise. The “difficult” film that supposedly makes you a film buff if you understand it. “Difficult” is apparently a good thing, and I see no reason to believe this.

If a book or movie is “difficult” to understand, is that a testimony to its depth? There’s no reason to assume that it’s any good – maybe it’s incoherent or bad. Perhaps the creator didn’t know how to communicate. A difficult movie isn’t necessarily a mental obstacle course that strengthens you, but just a pointless labyrinth.

Yes, some media is “difficult,” and yes, it takes intellectual fortitude to understand it. I evaluate such media on a case-by-case basis because “difficult” even when properly used doesn’t communicate depth. A clever mystery isn’t the same as a symbolism-packed journey.

I think people love to praise “difficult” media because it says I am smart enough to understand this and you’re not. Claiming something is “difficult” for too many is a way to praise themselves. It’s a way to use a single word to claim one’s intellectual superiority that you “got” it.

I’m always wary of simplistic descriptions such as “difficult.” They quickly become shorthand whose meaning is lost or ignore important distinctions. One word can get in the way of the real experience of a piece of media or a person.

Steven Savage